Anaphylaxis (Nut Allergy)
Potentially life-threatening allergic reactions.
Anaphylaxis is the serious, possibly life-threatening allergic reaction mainly caused by foods or inhalant agents. The incidence of true anaphylaxis is small, estimated as 1 in 70 of the general population but seems to be on the increase. Symptoms possibly caused by anaphylaxis include swelling of the tongue and or throat, breathlessness, vomiting, diarrhoea, flushed complexion followed by collapse and shock, from a depleted fluid volume. Anaphylaxis is sometimes associated with angio-oedema and or urticaria (hives). The person is often able to make the connection between cause and effect because the time lapse in immediate allergy is rather short, a few minutes to a few hours.
Nut allergy is the most serious type, along with allergy to wasp venom, followed by allergy to pollens, animal fur, seafood, egg white, cow's milk and some other common foods. This type of allergy can be confirmed with skin prick tests, but this carries a risk of inducing anaphylaxis. It is safer to check the immunoglobulin E, an antibody specific to the suspected allergen, in the blood. In our clinics we avoid skin prick tests when there is a history suggestive of anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis-like, or sometimes called anaphylactoid, reactions are caused by other immune mechanisms mimicking an immediate or severe allergy, but without its usual markers. In our experience, many patients are resigned to taking antihistamines long term believing they have life-threatening reactions but are unaware of specific factors responsible for their symptoms. They are often surprised to discover they have delayed Type B food allergy, also known as intolerance, to some common foods or food chemicals. More than 4 out of 5 of people seen in our clinics manage to identify relevant causative factors and control them with simple avoidance measures.
Treatment for Anaphylaxis
If you suspect that you have symptoms of anaphylaxis, you should seek immediate medical attention at a medical emergency department or by para-medics. The standard treatment includes injections of adrenaline, antihistamines, and/or steroids. Patients with confirmed or suspected anaphylaxis are usually issued with self-injectable adrenalin (Epipen).
It is possible to minimise the risk of anaphylaxis from accidentally eating the wrong food or being stung by a wasp or bee, with a method of desensitisation. See Neutralisation. Its safety record is excellent because it relies on very weak concentrations of the allergen and it can be used as needed.